International Travel

Tiana Gullotta

The surprise city revealed as the world’s most visited

The surprise city revealed as the world’s most visited

The large European cities such as Rome, Paris and London might initially spring to mind.

Or maybe iconic silver-screen exposed American cities such as New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Some may even think of Asia and the Middle East with popular tourist destinations of Beijing, Tokyo and Dubai.

Travellers are constantly searching for the newest place of exploration and riveting experiences submerged in culture.

But surprisingly, the Thai capital, Bangkok, is the world’s most visited city for the third year in a row, according to the annual Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, pushing London and Paris down the leader board.

Mastercard’s executive vice president for Global Cities, Miguel Gamino Jr, told Forbes, “London, Bangkok and the other top destinations are all so different yet have one thing in common: they’ve figured out how to capture the imaginations – and dollars – of visitors.”

Bangkok is a quarter of the size of New York City, and has never hosted the Olympic Games but, despite this, attracted over 20.05 million international tourists in 2017. However, this is expected to increase further by 9.06% by the end of 2018.

Gamino Jr admitted to Forbes, “Without a doubt, travellers are a critical driver of economic activity in these destination cities.”

Mastercard’s process of determining the most visited city considers both leisure and business travellers as well as visitor volume and spending for each of the 162 largest cities.

Gamino Jr added, “They’re [tourists] spending on everything from hotels and taxis to restaurants and spas to clothes and other goods.”

The city of Dubai was the highest ranked for international visitor spending with a whopping total of $41.9 billion spent in 2017 according to the Mastercard Index.

Dubai was closely followed by Saudi Arabia’s new arrival of the top 20 list, Mecca ($26.03 billion), London ($24.61 billion) Singapore ($24.01 billion) and Bangkok ($23.08 billion).

New arrivals on the Top 20 list include Pattaya and Phuket, Palma de Mallorca, Mecca and the Turkish city of Antalya. Whilst major cities Prague, Vienna, Shanghai, Amsterdam and Rome fell from the list last year.

In another surprise twist, Australia doesn’t even make the top 20 despite our world-renowned beaches, buzzing metropolises and warm desirable environment.


  1. Bangkok – 20.05 million
  2. London – 19.83 million
  3. Paris – 17.44 million
  4. Dubai – 15.79 million
  5. Singapore – 13. 91 million
  6. New York – 13.13 million
  7. Kuala Lumpur – 12.58 million
  8. Tokyo – 11.93 million
  9. Istanbul – 10.70 million
  10. Seoul – 9.54 million
  11. Antalya – 9.42 million
  12. Phuket – 9.29 million
  13. Mecca – 9.18 million
  14. Hong Kong – 9.03 million
  15. Milan – 8.81 million
  16. Palma de Mallorca – 8.78 million
  17. Barcelona –8.69 million
  18. Pattaya – 8.67 million
  19. Osaka – 8.42 million
  20. Bali – 8.3 million